The 13 best films of 2013 [VIDEO]

Taylor Bigler Entertainment Editor
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It’s been a few years since there have been so many movies I’ve actually really wanted to see. But there was a deluge of fantastic films out this year, from simple, observational comedies, to a few wildly over-the-top spectacles.

Here are the 13 best movies of 2013, in my opinion. (Keep in mind that I am correct approximately 95 percent of the time, so any other “best of” movies list has a really big chance of being inferior to mine.)

13. “Drinking Buddies”

With the exception of a couple of pages worth of plot points, there was no script for this observational, mumblecore comedy about what happens when two, platonic coworkers who work together in a craft brewery may — or may not — cross the line into something more. All of the dialogue throughout the entire movie is improvised, which makes this small romantic-ish comedy even more impressive. The cast (the gorgeous Olivia Wilde, perfectly deadpan Jake Johnson, the likable Anna Kendrick and the comedic vet Ron Livingston) doesn’t hurt, either.

12. “Side Effects”

Many people — movie critics and normals — didn’t like this movie at all, including the person I watched it with. But I think that Steven Soderbergh’s psychological thriller about what happens to a woman after she is prescribed a new antidepressant is the best thriller of the year.

11. “Dallas Buyer’s Club”

Both Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto — who lost at least 50 pounds each for their respective parts — are stellar in this semi-true story about the real-life Ron Woodruff, a homophobic rodeo cowboy who is given a few weeks to live after he is diagnosed with AIDS. But he goes on a crusade to bring experimental — and illegal — medication to the U.S. The movie drags a little at times, but as a whole it is a great film about the fear and hopelessness of an AIDS diagnosis back in the eighties and what this man was willing to do to help himself — and others — survive.

10. “12 Years a Slave”

Yes, this is a beautifully shot and accurate description of slavery in the United States. Yes, Chiwetel Ejiofor is great as the real-life Solomon Northrup, a free man who is trapped back into slavery. Yes, Michael Fassbender is grossly mesmerizing as an evil slave owner. Does that mean that I want to see this movie ever again? Definitely not! But it certainly is a very well-made film and a great feat of writing, acting and directing, and I can only recommend it if you want your stomach to churn for two-and-a-half hours. But it undoubtedly deserves a place on every list of best films of this year.

9. “Fruitvale Station”

A fair warning: Watching this movie is like being sucker-punched in the gut. With that out the way, allow me to explain how great of a film it actually is. “Fruitvale Station” is a dramatization of the last day of Oscar Grant’s life, a young man who was shot to death by a BART officer in Oakland, Calif. after a scuffle at the Fruitvale Station stop got out of hand on New Year’s Day 2009.

The movie follows Grant on the day before his death as he tries to get things right with his girlfriend and mother of his daughter after he cheats on her, get his job back and stop selling weed. The film avoids the trappings of a morality play — Oh, look how amazing this person was and how sad it is that he died — but depicts both the good and bad sides of Grant. “Fruitvale Station” is about a family and what happens when a family is torn apart by a tragic accident.

 8. “Her”

The premise of Spike Jonze’s “Her” sounds bizarre: A dorky, newly separated guy falls in love with his operating system sometime in the near future. But despite the futuristic plot, “Her” is really just about how people (and, okay, one computer) fall in and out of love, no matter how hard they try not to fall in — or especially out — of love. Joaquin Phoenix is great as an introverted writer and despite the fact that Scarlett Johansson (as the voice of the OS) is never once onscreen, it seems like she is.

“Her” is a meditation on our obsession with technology, but it isn’t preachy or condemning. It’s a wickedly funny, bittersweet love story.

7. “Mud”

“Mud” was a highly under-marketed and underrated indie film about a gritty convict, played by Matthew McConaughey, who befriends two young boys in a poor Oklahoma town in an attempt to win back the love of his life (Reese Witherspoon).  It’s a classic coming-of-age story, but with a darker, grittier underbelly. (And any movie with Sam Shepard is automatically awesome.)

6. “Inside Llewyn Davis”

This is the least Coen brothers movie the Coen brothers have ever made. Two people said to me after they saw it, “I don’t think I get it,” and I’m not quite sure that I get it either. But the film, about a Bob Dylan contemporary who can never quite make it as Bob Dylan, is a beautifully shot movie with an incredible soundtrack that made me laugh, nearly cry and feel anxious inside my own skin, as Coen brothers movies are wont to do.

The point of “Llewyn Davis” may be that this talented-but-not-great singer gets in the way of his own success because he just such a complete asshole, yet there we are feeling sorry for him (at least some of the time). That may not be the point, either, but a great movie stays with you after you leave the theater, and this one certainly did. Plus, there is a really cute cat throughout the movie, and I am a sucker for animal gimmicks.

5. “Blue Jasmine”

Cate Blanchett gives an unforgettable — and vile — performance as the wife of a Wall Street jerk who both cheats on her and his clients. Her performance is a master class in acting as she goes from flawless, Upper East Side housewife to a Xanax-popping head case living on her adopted sister’s couch. Woody Allen’s latest film has been heralded as one of his very best, and that is in large part due to Blanchett.

4.”Enough Said”

Could James Gandolfini nostalgia be part of the reason why everyone has given “Enough Said” so much praise? Possibly. But this delightful movie about mid-life love is both heartbreaking and heartwarming and deserving of praise all on its own. Julia Louis-Dreyfuss is painfully realistic as a frazzled single mother who is trying to figure it all out. “Enough Said” is a fantastic movie made even more poignant by the untimely loss of Gandolfini.

3. “Nebraska”

As I mentioned in my initial review, everyone should see the quietly heartbreaking “Nebraska.” It is a simple, bittersweet, father-and-son road-trip movie that — I think — nearly everyone in the audience can relate to. Bruce Dern’s senile character Woody attempts to walk to Nebraska from Montana because he got a card in the mail saying he won $1 million dollars. Everyone knows this isn’t true except for Woody, but his son drives him there to make him happy. What follows is an equal parts hilarious and sad tale of a family and what a son will do for his father.

2. “Wolf of Wall Street”

WILL SOMEONE PLEASE GIVE LEONARDO DICAPRIO AN OSCAR ALREADY? He has never deserved it more than after his utterly insane performance in Martin Scorcese’s latest film. This three-hour, debauched romp through the life of Wall Street tycoon Jordan Belfort has gotten some criticism for celebrating the glory days of Wall Street and not focusing on Belfort’s financial victims, but I don’t think that is the purpose of the film at all. It’s about the rise and fall of one person, not a lesson in morality about greed or good versus evil. If you have a conscience, and pretty much everyone does, you know this dude is bad.

This is by far the most hilarious film of the year and is such a surprising — and wonderful — departure from DiCaprio’s usual brooding roles as sad guys who have had a tough life. This is quite the opposite. The film goes by in a flash and there are moments of physical comedy that will have you rolling out of your seat. “Wolf of Wall Street” is not for the faint of heart, but if you can handle a heavy dose of Quaaludes, coke, crack, hookers, strippers, full-frontal nudity and some spousal abuse, DiCaprio will entertain the hell out of you.

1. “American Hustle”

I thought long and hard about putting “Wolf of Wall Street” first on this list. But I could only think of two reasons to do that: a) I want to see both DiCaprio and Scorcese — eventually — win Academy Awards, and b) much for the same reasons everyone hates the Miami Heat or the University of Alabama football team, nobody likes to see the same team win year after year.

But I can’t possibly use those reasons to dock points from David O. Russell’s fantastically over-the-top ensemble black comedy about a pair of con-artists, an FBI agent and one insane wife, despite the fact that Russell’s 2012 “Silver Linings Playbook” — also starring Bradley Cooper and my best friend Jennifer Lawrence — got so much attention last awards season.

The entire movie is superbly acted, over-the-top and, in a word, FABULOUS. The hair, makeup and costume people deserve all of the awards just for Cooper’s hair and man tan alone. (And I wouldn’t mind having Amy Adams’ entire wardrobe.) Christian Bale is amazing as always; Adams is sexier and more captivating than ever; Cooper shows shades of his manic “Silver Linings” character; and Lawrence, again, steals the show. An unexpected cameo three-fourths of the way through doesn’t hurt, either.

“American Hustle” is the best film of the year as a whole (but I’m still rooting for you, Leo!).

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